Nissan Dorma – Italian Artistry In Car
Organising a photo shoot and an audition involving three busy people is always a challenge. Usually the car owner has to book some time off work, snapper and I have to have a coincident free day and that is before we have found a location that will make a good backdrop for the pictures and we cross our fingers and hope that the weather will be kind to us.
Very, very occasionally the stars align and this is exactly what happened with this shoot. We heard about the install from our good friends FOUR MASTER, Source Sounds Sheffield, on a Friday afternoon. We had managed to synchronise three diaries and fix up a meet for the following Monday in about 20 minutes.
Barnsley-born Steven Szarvas is just 34 years of age. This affable Yorkshireman is as quietly spoken and polite as he is enthusiastic about his car. Fortunately for us, Steven has been a car valeter for 10 years and so our hearts leapt on seeing his pristine Nissan 350Z crouched and ready to pounce outside Source Sounds where we had agreed to meet. I had checked Google maps for some green open spaces in the area where we could try to find a suitable location for the shoot, but the amazing Steven suggested we look at nearby Wortley Hall.
This stunning country estate is set in 25 acres of beautifully manicured gardens. It is now run as a hotel, conference centre and wedding venue. Steven tells me he used to walk his dog here and that he had booked it for his wedding to partner Lisa, in July 2019. I went into reception and asked if it was OK to find a suitable place to shoot the car and they were most accommodating. A groundsman was also extremely helpful in allowing us to get the car to places cars are generally not allowed to go!
While snapper-du-jour, Brian snapped away, I was able to ask Steve a few questions. Steve has owned the car for two years now. During this time it has undergone quite a transformation with wheels, external and internal trim parts and a new carbon fibre bonnet amongst the most obvious work done to date. It is very easy on the eye and polished to high sheen. The audio system is not yet fully run-in having had only a few hours of running time, but the glint in his eye told me that he is already very impressed. The Nissan is not his daily driver but kept for weekend leisure driving and for shows. This year he attended Jap Fest at Silverstone where the car sat on the Nissan stand. Steven is no stranger to car shows, he used to regularly show a series of Vauxhall Astras at shows such as Trax and Performance Vauxhall. These vehicles mainly showcased the car’s performance and styling rather than audio although his last Astra 2.0 L Turbo sported Hertz High Energy speakers run directly from a Kenwood head unit.
When he changed to the Nissan he was immediately disappointed by the poor sound quality of the stock system. This lacked bass, clarity and suffered all the other major flaws of every factory installed “entertainment” system. The deep exhaust note of this high performance car would completely overwhelm the system when driving for fun and he wanted to be able to enjoy a bit of dub step and hip-hop while he and Lisa cruise around.
Stephen and Lisa currently live in Stocksbridge, almost within shouting distance of Source Sounds. Stephen was aware of the great reputation they deservedly enjoy and had used them before. Stephen had no choice to make once he decided to get something done about his lousy sound.
I can wholeheartedly state that Source Sounds are unique in their approach. Proprietor, Paul Ellis has been plying his trade in the area for many years and is nationally heralded as one of the best in the business when it comes to achieving great audio in a car. As well as being extremely good at what they do, all staff at Source Sounds are extremely pro-active in suggesting solutions that will fit customer requirements and helping customers define what they are after. Paul often tells me that the majority of his customers find it difficult to articulate what it is they want. However, they will have a number of things that are important to them. In Stephen’s case, he wanted the car to look unchanged. This is an extremely common request these days and Paul is a master at finding the right product to achieve the best result.
With many other changes planned for his vehicle, Stephen was also “budget-conscious” and wanted to squeeze as much sound quality as possible from his spend. He wanted enough bass to overcome the exhaust note but was keen on a smart integrated solution. This he found by way of a bespoke bass box from a company in Florida, The Sub Box Shop (I wonder what they make?). The enclosure fits seamlessly behind the bulkhead to the rear of the vehicle and accommodates a 250mm subwoofer. Stephen opted for Hertz Mille Pro MP 250D 4.3as recommended by Lee at Source Sounds. With the rear hatch down, the sub remains out of sight of prying eyes but a gap between the top of the bulkhead and the passenger space means that the two spaces are directly and acoustically connected. In order to get the most from the subwoofer Source installed an Audison Prima AP 1D monoblock amplifier. Capable of delivering 310 Watts RMS to the subwoofer - there is no shortage of bass in this compact car!
Although he wanted enough low-end to overcome the engine note, Stephen is not a typical bass head and sound quality was also part of his specification. Source recommended Hertz Mille Legend MLK 165.3, 2-way component speakers. These were favoured over the arguably more refined and rounded sound of something like Audison Voces or Rainbow Germaniums as they are designed with high-energy music in mind. A secondary reason for choosing the MLK 165’s is that they make a great match for Audison Prima power. In this car an Audison Prima AP 4.9 bit amplifier was stacked with the AP 1D in a small hole in the rear bulkhead that looks like it was designed to house a factory fitted subwoofer (shudder at the thought!). Fortunately, this was never fitted and so provided a handy void into which the amplifiers fitted perfectly. Audison Prima amplifiers use Class D topography making them very compact and efficient and perfect for small cars. A higher spec’d speaker system would ideally be run with a much bigger class AB amplifier which would have been extremely hard to accommodate in this car.
To match the power in the bottom end the 4-channel amplifier is running bridged and drives the MLK 165’s passively with matching Hertz crossovers securely mounted in the doors. It is vital that this is done by an expert – we see many cars where on closing the doors a secondary bump is heard as the crossover bangs against the door panel due to having come loose of its moorings – eventually the connections break and remedial work is required! Source Sound have used a mix of Chord speaker cable and Connection interconnects and accessories, both of exemplary quality and proven to last a lifetime. A liberal smothering of Skinz deadening and panel liner has made a massive difference to road and wind noise and much to Stephen’s relief, prevents him from annoying the neighbours.
A Kenwood Double Din head unit with Apple CarPlay enables Stephen to stream via USB from his iPhone. He generally uses Google Music as this is his weapon of choice at home and offers as good a selection of music as any other streaming service. I have not personally compared this to my favoured Qobuz, but all “premium” streaming services are fairly good these days. Anyway, I connected my iPhone and streamed some 16bit 44.1kHz stuff that I had been listening to in my car.
To get everything moving I hit the system with a number of perennial favourites including “The Way You Make Me Feel” – Michael Jackson, “The Wheel” – SOHN and “The House Carpenter” – Kelly Joe Phelps
A quick blast from each song told me that the system had width – playing just outside of the right-hand wing mirror. Bass articulation was pretty good but was a tiny bit biased toward v. low bass. There is too much sub bass for acoustic guitar music.
With this done, I reached for a track I had been quite captivated by in my own car for a couple of days. The track is “Fools In Love” by Joe Jackson from his “At the BBC” double album. As is the way with Joe, this is a heavily re-imagined version of the 1979 hit from his “Look Sharp!” album.
This live version is slow and very much on the beat, unlike the original. It begins with gentle congas under Joe’s introductory spiel quickly joined by a phased bass guitar that plays very deep. A drum kit joins them with the snare played with side stick along with some incidental percussion – a cabasa and tambourine at least. A low Hammond-like organ swells subtly from the depths of the mix. As the organ rises, a bit of Leslie-cabinet-style wobble is added and the snare drum is hit properly, a bit of a shock even though I knew it was coming! At 1:30 the repeated four-chord phrase reaches climax, as does the Hammond organ, now with maximum Leslie wobble. The drummer is getting a great work out with crashing and splashing cymbals elevating the soaring bass line until at 2:03 everything stops short to allow Joe to add the punch line “Fools in Love”, solo voce. This stimulates applause and cheering as the audience suddenly get what song he is playing. The vocal and percussion continue interspersed with some jazzy piano runs and everything from here on has a distinctly slow samba feel. I have seen Joe Jackson a number of times. He is a marvellous musician, arranger and singer-songwriter and his live shows never cease to surprise. I have heard him do acapella versions of famous hits as well as brass section only renditions. His back catalogue of hits is extensive and those of a certain age will probably be able to sing along to most of his set. Most importantly in this context, he always seems to have people around him who can get the best sound possible out of his live recordings. As you can tell from the waffle, I thoroughly enjoyed the listen.
It is clear that this car has even more to offer. I feel the top-end in particularly was a little subdued but it is early days for Stephen and his system. He will return to Source Sounds after a few more hours of listening for a set up. The amplifier is equipped with the phenomenally powerful bit technology that allows access to a baffling amount of equalisation, time alignment and phase correction and in the right hands magic can be performed – I have a slight worry that Stephen’s insistence on having the tweeters hidden away behind the tiny standard grilles, may ultimately lead to high-end compromise, but it may not. Fortunately, he is in very, very good hands!
Stephen’s Top Five Driving Sounds
In for the Kill - La Roux
I Can’t Stop - Flux Pavilion
The Only Way is Up - Tïesto & Martin Garrix
Stay for It - RL Grime ft, Miguel
Sail - AWOLNATION
In association with our partners The FOUR MASTER Network, we are able to provide you with a no obligation custom quote on a system for your car.
Not ready for that yet? Why not book a demonstration at your home, place of work or with your local FOUR MASTER?